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The gemara in Makot 23b writes there are 613 ("taryag") mitzvot (commandments) and links this number to 365 days of the year and 248 limbs in a human body. Targum pseudo Yonatan (Bereishit 1:27) and Zohar I parsha Vayishlach 170b connect the 613 mitzvot with 248 members and 365 nerves in a human body.

What significance has been attached to the matching number of mitzvot and parts in the human body? I found one (below) but would love to learn more.

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  • related but different: Significance of number 613 regarding the mitzvot
    – mbloch
    Jul 23 at 13:51
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    Great question with mountains of sources discussing it. Are you specifically trying to clarify the distinction between the 248, which relate to the actual physical body, and the 365 which as you point out have a more subtle relationship? Truth be told, there are 2 related concepts going on. That of male/female and that of Jew/non-Jew. Jul 23 at 14:57
  • @YaacovDeane I am most interested by the link between 613 mitzvot and 613 body parts.
    – mbloch
    Jul 23 at 14:58
  • I understand. But the 365 also correspond with the aspect of creation called “time”. It is really involving the distinction between the Jewish body, which has 248 corresponding to the bones and what is ultimately the non-Jewish body. The first involves the ability to interact with and unify both time and space (material existence). The 2nd is strictly associated with time only. That’s why non-Jews only have negative mitzvot. Jul 23 at 15:12
  • It’s a big and very important subject. Jul 23 at 15:14
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The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh has a famous piece on Devarim 8:1 where it writes:

כׇּל־הַמִּצְוָ֗ה אֲשֶׁ֨ר אָנֹכִ֧י מְצַוְּךָ֛ הַיּ֖וֹם תִּשְׁמְר֣וּן לַעֲשׂ֑וֹת לְמַ֨עַן תִּֽחְי֜וּן וּרְבִיתֶ֗ם וּבָאתֶם֙ וִֽירִשְׁתֶּ֣ם אֶת־הָאָ֔רֶץ אֲשֶׁר־נִשְׁבַּ֥ע ה' לַאֲבֹתֵיכֶֽם׃

You shall faithfully observe all the Instruction that I enjoin upon you today, that you may thrive and increase and be able to possess the land that the LORD promised on oath to your fathers.

The Ohr HaChaim writes there:

He resorted to a way of illustrating his point which is incontrovertible, based on the Zohar volume one page 170. According to the Zohar man has 248 bones and 365 sinews. G-d commanded us 365 negative commandments and 248 positive commandments, one each to correspond to each of these parts of our body. If one suffers a pain or hurt in one of his bones or sinews he should examine which one of the commandments he had neglected so that the pain in question might be due to such neglect. A man will not be satisfied if in response to his cries of pain caused by the afflicted bone he is told by his doctor that seeing that 247 of his bones do not hurt him he should not really be complaining but count his blessings. Similarly, we must relate to each one of the 613 commandments. We cannot pride ourselves merely on the commandments we do observe but must be keenly aware of the damaging effect on our spiritual health of any commandment which we fail to observe when we have the opportunity. All of these considerations are included in Moses' reference to the need for us to observe the whole commandment, both the negative part and the positive part. The reason for this is למען תחיון, "so that you will live and multiply and come and inherit the land." Inheritance of the land of Israel is conditional on מצוה observance, which in turn is the guarantee of our spiritual and physical wellbeing. (Sefaria translation, my emphasis)

He mentions this point also earlier with his commentary on Vayikra 18:4

The Ramchal also brings out this point in his Kalach Pischei Chochmah 17:12 and introduces it by stating:

ועיקרו בסוד התרי"ג, שהוא כל בנין האדם

And this is the fundamental secret of the 613 mitzvos, that they comprise the structure of man.


EDIT

In addition Rav Chaim Vital zt"l brings down in Shaar HaKavanos shaar alef, cheilek alef the following:

וכל אבר מן רמ"ח איברים נזון ממצוה פרטית המתיחסת לאותו אבר וכאשר יחסר לאדם קיום איזה מצוה גם האבר הפרטי המתיחס למצוה יחסר ממונו מזונו

And each limb of the 248 limbs is nourished from an individual mitzvah that relates to each limb. And when a person fails to do that particular mitzvah, that individual limb will lack its proper nourishment.

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R Yechiel Michel Tucazinsky in Gesher HaChaim (third part, p. 107 in the English edition) writes that the soul is clothed, in this world, in 613 parts of the body and, in the World to Come, in the "garments created from the mitzvot he does in this world".

In his words

Shedding the soul is merely a change of clothing, from the gross, material garments to the noble, purified spiritual robe (it, too with its 248 members and 365 sinews corresponding to the 248 positive and 365 negative commandments of the Torah, as is written in the holy books.)

He brings a number of statements from the Zohar to support his claim

  • Just as the soul is provided with garb appropriate for life in this world, so is it given a garment of sublime lustre for life in that world (Zohar, Noach 66a)
  • The Tzaddikim are worthy since their days are worthy and they will survive in the World to Come and wear precious clothing ... and they will be invited to live and endure in that clothing (Zohar Vayechi)
  • One ... deserving such clothing ... because of the good deeds he does in this world, obeying the precepts of the Torah. And the soul thereby survives and dresses itself in these precious garments (Zohar, Vayakhel)
  • When human beings perform the commandments of the Torah in this world ... the garments for them to wear in the next world are being prepared for them (Zohar, Pekudei)
  • The Holy One, Blessed be He was good to His creatures, not removing their clothing from them before preparing other garments for them, more precious than, and superior to - except for the guilty who come naked and return naked
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    See here for a fascinating explanation behind the meaning of 248 and it's connection to creation and limbs of the body and mitzvohs. inner.org/torah_and_science/physics/E68-0422.php
    – Chatzkel
    Jul 23 at 14:30
  • chabad.org/kabbalah/article_cdo/aid/379570/jewish/… The 248 correspond to the 248 angels surrounding the Shechina. The 365 represents the angelic forces of each nerve and each day of the year. Also, the Gemara Nedarim 32B mentions that the numerical value of HaSatan is 364 meaning he rules every day except Yom Kippur. So perhaps 365 is connected to the Evil Inclination
    – Chatzkel
    Jul 23 at 15:00
  • I didn't see your answer when I wrote my comments. If this is the kind of connection you seek - you should probably mention it in the question. Maybe I misunderstood your "significance" because your answer shows no connection to the numbers whatsoever.
    – Al Berko
    Jul 27 at 17:07
  • @al of course there is a connection. 613 parts of the body according to the sources in the question, 613 mitzvot
    – mbloch
    Jul 27 at 17:09
  • @mbloch it just mentions the number. Imagine there were 34 Mitzvos (like ibid in Makos 23). So you would connect it to the 34 body parts and have the same metaphorical Pirush.
    – Al Berko
    Jul 27 at 17:15

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